Fly On Angel
Fly On Angel won the Grade 3 Charles Town Oaks. Photo by Coady Photography.

In the first of two graded stakes races held at Charles Town on Friday evening, Fly On Angel appeared to sprout wings through the early going and then had just enough late to score a 9-1 upset.

Fly On Angel forged a clear early lead through honest fractions of 22.81 and 46.25, then opened up a four-length advantage on the far turn and held off Grade I winner Wicked Whisper for a half-length victory in the Grade 3, $200,000 Charles Town Oaks for three-year-old fillies.

Fly On Angel had not arrived with serious credentials, while Wicked Whisper could boast plenty of back class courtesy of a victory in the Grade 1 Frizette Stakes at Belmont Park nearly one year ago. In fact, Fly On Angel had just recently been claimed for $50,000 by trainer Claudio Gonzalez for owner Joseph Besecker out of an optional claiming event at Parx August 10.

On Friday night, amid occasional drizzle late that perhaps softened the track – it was listed as “fast” throughout the night – Fly On Angel broke best of all and gained command passing the finish line the first time. She laid down early splits that figured to prove taxing eventually. But when Fly On Angel opened a four-length lead turning for home, the added cushion was enough to overcome the early tempo.

“I told [jockey] Fredy [Peltroche] before the race to send her out of there and put her on the front if he could,” Gonzalez said of Fly On Angel, a sophomore daughter of Palace Malice that now owns two wins from four starts this year and four wins and nearly $230,000 banked from nine lifetime outings. “When I looked up and saw those fractions, 22 and 46, I thought she had no chance to keep going. But then when she opened up a four-length lead turning for home, I thought she could do it.”

It was the second Oaks victory for Peltroche, who won the event two years ago aboard Late Night Pow Wow and then later steered her to a determined score in the Grade 3, $250,000 Barbara Fritchie at Laurel Park for owner-trainer Javier Contreras. 

Friday night, Peltroche took Gonzalez’s instructions to heart – put Fly On Angel on the front and improve position.

“She just broke so good,” Peltroche said. “She was actually clear on the first turn. She was going quick early, but I felt her to relax down the backside. Then she opened up leaving the three-eighths pole. I started to get after a little bit from there. I could hear the other horses coming, so I really got after her in the stretch. When I looked over at the wire, I thought I just held on. But I couldn’t tell. She just was able to hold on at the wire.”

Wicked Whisper closed well between horses to finish second in her best effort of the season for trainer Steve Asmussen, while Princess Cadey and Ankle Monitor also closed willingly late to finish third and fourth, respectively, both for Gonzalez. So, not only did Gonzalez saddle the winner for Besecker, he also had two other fillies hit the board in the Grade 3 event.

“First of all, I am so happy for the owner [Besecker] of the winner,” Gonzalez said. “He wanted to claim a filly that had speed and could maybe fit this race. She looked good winning that race at Parx. But you never know how horses are going to take to this track – they either like it here or they don’t. The other two fillies both finished really well. I thought I had a chance to run one-two-three. But that Wicked Whisper is a nice filly. If you can run 1-3-4 in a race like this, you had a good night.”